In anticipation of federal budget cuts, NLIHC state partner Housing Action NH is heightening its effort to preserve state funding for homeless assistance programs. Housing Action NH and allies are stressing the strain that state cuts to homeless programs will impose on New Hampshire’s municipalities.
On February 15, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch (D) released his biennial budget for FY12-13, which begins in July. Governor Lynch proposed cutting the Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services (BHHS), which provides funding for shelters and other homelessness programs, by 7% in FY12 and 9% in FY13. Advocates have called for the state to maintain FY10-11 funding levels for BHHS. Advocates are also pushing to restore the BHHS Homeless Housing Access Revolving Loan program, which helps homeless families move into permanent housing by providing funds for security deposits and first month’s rent. The Governor’s budget provides 75% less than the $200,000 requested by the Commissioner of Health and Human Services for the program.
In response, Housing Action NH is mobilizing service providers who have historically not been organized. “We’re seeing people become advocates, and that’s exciting,” said Housing Action NH director Elissa Margolin. The group represents almost 40 housing organizations across the state, and, in addition to activating their base, Housing Action NH is engaging leaders in a variety of sectors, including small business and law enforcement, urging them to write letters and set up meetings with legislators. They have met with officials in the Executive branch as well as leaders in House and Senate to make the case for preserving this funding.
Advocates argue that cutting funding for BHHS would further strain municipal budgets across the state. “Without shelter, people often end up extending their stay in hospitals, or incarcerated in our county jails,” said Maggie Fogarty of Housing Action NH. “Each of these scenarios costs municipalities more money than would be spent on programs providing permanent housing, to say nothing of the human cost of living without the basic security of shelter.” Advocates note that without state income tax or sales tax, New Hampshire lacks a significant revenue stream to help balance its budget, and cuts at the state level are passed on to cities and towns. “The state needs to consider how slashing funding will impact already over-burdened municipal welfare programs and facilities. Communities will not be able to absorb these costs,” Fogarty said.
Advocates say that expected drastic cuts in federal funding further underscore the need to preserve state funding “Many of our state legislators are echoing the rhetoric of federal representatives, saying everyone must share cuts,” said Margolin. “But we can’t cut the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. Where do you go if you can’t sleep in a cold weather shelter in the middle of winter in New Hampshire?”
“Last year there was an increase of 12% in the number of homeless families in New Hampshire,” Fogarty said. “That rate will increase again if BHHS funds are cuts, and costs will go up elsewhere. Ultimately, it is communities who will pay.”
For more information, contact Elissa Margolin at firstname.lastname@example.org.